Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Lamb

 

Herbed Italian White Beans

Ingredients

4 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon garlic, crushed, or to taste
1 teaspoon. dried sage
1 (14-oz.) can cannellini beans (Italian white beans), drained, or 2 cups homecooked
2 cups grape tomatoes cut in thirds crosswise
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons fresh basil, shredded
2 teaspoons wine vinegar or to taste

Directions

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic and sage. Sauté about 2 minutes.
Add drained beans and tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper. Stir gently to combine. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer until hot/.
Uncover the pan and remove from heat. Immediately add basil and vinegar and serve.

Greek Style Lamp Chops

Ingredients

2 loin lamb chops
2 tablespoons Greek seasoning

Marinade
1 garlic clove, mined
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt

Directions

Combine the marinade ingredients in a plastic bag. Add the lamb and refrigerate for several hours.
When ready to cook, coat chops with a tablespoon of seasoning.
You can grill the chops in a grill poa or in the broiler for about 4 minutes per side. You can cook them in an air-fryer at 400degrees F for 12 minutes or cook them in a skillet for about 4 minutes on each side

Oven Roasted Asparagus

Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 bunch asparagus
2 tablespoons lemon juice
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper

Directions
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
Break off the woody bottoms of the asparagus and wash in cold water.
Arrange trimmed asparagus in a baking dish and drizzle with the oil. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and lemon.
Top with breadcrumbs and bake for 20 minutes.


Fennel Salad

Ingredients

Salad
1 orange zested, peeled, and cut into segments
1 medium fennel bulb, trimmed and thinly sliced crosswise
1 celery stalk, thinly sliced on the bias
2 radishes, thinly sliced
1/4 cup pitted Kalamata olives, drained
1/2 cup sliced red onion

Dressing
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon honey
1/2 teaspoon grated orange zest
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper

Directions

Combine the salad ingredients in a medium salad bowl. Whisk the dressing ingredients together and pour over the salad. Toss gently.

Air Fryer Lamb Chops

Ingredients

4 loin lamb chops 1 1/2″ wide
4 teaspoons whole grain mustard
1/2 teaspoon olive oil
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
½ teaspoon crushed black pepper and 1/2 teaspoon of coarser sea salt

Directions

Preheat the air fryer to 350 degrees F

Sprinkle the lamb with salt to taste.
Combine the remaining ingredients and brush on the lamb.
Place lamb chops in the air fryer basket with some room in between.
Cook for 15 minutes for medium-rare (turning at 8 minutes.)
You can use a thermometer to test for doneness.

Serve with Tzatziki Sauce and warm pita bread.

Tzatziki Feta Sauce

ingredients
Half a large cucumber, peeled, seeded, and finely chopped
1 cup Greek yogurt
¼ cup crumbled feta cheese
1 large garlic clove, grated
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon dried dill
Salt t

Directions

Sprinkle cucumber with ½ teaspoon salt. Let sit in a colander to drain for 10 minutes, then squeeze out excess water.
Combine yogurt, cucumber, garlic, oil, dill, feta, and ½ teaspoon salt in a bowl. Mix well.


Italian Style Lamb chops

4 servings

4 Large Lamb Loin Chops
1/4 cup Olive Oil
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
2 teaspoons fresh mint, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
Zest of 1 Lemon
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon Black Pepper

Directions

Mix together all of the marinade ingredients and place in a shallow casserole dish along with the lamb ensuring the marinade coats the lamb well. Refrigerate for at least two hours or up till 6 hours. Remove from the refrigerator 45 minutes before you are ready to cook to allow the meat to come to room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Heat a heavy oven-proof frying pan at medium-high heat. Sear the lamb very well on both sides until golden brown. Place the pan in the hot oven until the lamb is cooked, about 6 to 8 minutes.

Wild and whole Grain Rice

4 servings

Ingredients

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 medium onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 1/4 cup whole grain wild rice {I use Lundberg}
2 1/2 cups chicken broth
4 oz can sliced ounces mushrooms
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Heat the butter in a large saucepot over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the rice and toast while stirring until it begins to smell nutty, about 1 minute. Add the garlic and chicken stock and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook on low until the water is absorbed about 40 minutes.
Add the mushrooms and seasonings. Keep the pot on the burner with the heat off, cover the pot, and let sit for 5 minutes.

Spinach With Garlic

4 servings

Ingredients

2- 15z pkg frozen spinach, defrosted and drained
2 garlic cloves
¼ cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Heat the oil and garlic in a large, deep skillet over low heat. Add the spinach, salt, and pepper. Cover the skillet. Heat the spinach until hot, turning the mixture several times.


Rack of Lamb with Pomegranate Sauce

Servings 4

Ingredients

1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
½ cup Panko crumbs
1 rack of lamb, “frenched”, about 8 ribs

Directions

Brush the meat area with mustard. Sprinkle it with rosemary and garlic. Press on the panko crumbs.
Place the lamb in a roasting pan with the ribs curving down. Set aside for 1 hour at room temperature.
Preheat the oven to 450 F degrees.
Roast the lamb for exactly 20 minutes for rare or 25 minutes for medium-rare. Remove from the oven and cover with aluminum foil. Allow to rest for 15 minutes, then cut into individual ribs and serve with the Pomegranate Sauce.

Pomegranate Sauce

Ingredients

2 cups of water
1 pomegranate, seeds removed
3 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons minced shallot
1 garlic clove minced
¼ cup molasses
2 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into four pieces
Salt and black pepper to taste

Directions

Set aside 2 tablespoons of pomegranate seeds. Place the remaining seeds, honey, and water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce the temperature to a simmer and cook for 45 minutes. Strain the liquid over a bowl and in a colander and press the seeds until most of the flesh is extracted. Discard the seeds. Set the mixture aside.
Heat the oil in the sauté pan over medium heat. Add the shallot and garlic and sauté until tender, about one minute.
Whisk in the broth and molasses. Add seeds.
Increase the heat to high. Boil the sauce until it reduces by half and is syrupy about eight minutes.
Remove the pan from the heat. Whisk the butter into the sauce, one piece at a time, until well blended. Season the sauce to taste with salt and twists of the pepper mill.

Parmesan Rice Cakes

You can cook these patties in the oven with the lamb. Leave them in the oven to finish cooking after you remove the lamb.

Makes 6-8 patties

Ingredients

3 cups cooked rice
3/4 cup bread crumbs
3 eggs
2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup onion finely minced
1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper or to taste
Vegetable oil

Directions

Preheat the oven to 450 F degrees.
Place all the ingredients in a bowl and mix well.
Oil a baking sheet.
Using a 1/4 or 1/3 cup measure, form the mixture into patties and place on the prepared pan.
Bake until brown and crisp about 40 minutes.

Cucumber And Tomato Salad

Ingredients

1 large cucumber, peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded, sliced into 1/4″-thick half-moons
1 large tomato, diced and drained
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons Greek yogurt
3 tablespoons sour cream
3 tablespoons red onion, minced
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill

Directions

Place cucumber slices in a colander; sprinkle with salt, tossing to coat. Let stand for 15 minutes, then rinse and pat dry with paper towels.

Combine yogurt, sour cream, onion, vinegar, sugar, and dill in a mixing bowl. Add cucumber slices and drained tomatoes; toss to coat. Let salad stand for at least 5 minutes before serving, or chill in the refrigerator for several hours.

 


Grilled Lamb Chops

2 servings

Ingredients

4 loin lamb chops

Marinade
2 tablespoons lemon juice
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon dried Greek seasoning or oregano
2 garlic cloves, sliced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Directions

Combine the marinade ingredients in a ziplock food storage bag. Give it a shake. Add the lamb, seal the bag, and marinate overnight in the refrigerator.

Preheat an outdoor or stovetop grill. Place the lamb on the grill and cook for 4-5 minutes on each side. Remove to a serving platter and let rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Beets With Tzatziki Sauce

Ingredients

2 large beets washed well
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
Salt
1cup plain whole-milk yogurt, preferably Greek-style
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
Black pepper

To roast beets:
Trim the greens off the beets to within 1 inch and scrub the beets. Arrange the beets in a small roasting pan, add 1/8 inch water, and cover loosely with foil. Roast at 450 degrees F for 45-60 minutes, until they are tender when pierced with a knife. When cool enough to handle, peel the beets: Cut off the stem and root ends and scrape the thin layer of skin off with a knife. Quater each beet and place them in a serving bowl. To serve top with several tablespoons of tzatziki sauce.

To make the sauce
In a mixing bowl, combine garlic, lemon juice, and 1 teaspoon salt. Stir in yogurt and olive oil and dill. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper. Chill until ready to serve.

Greek Salad

Dressing

1/2 cup red wine vinegar
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon sugar or sugar substitute
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 cup of vegetable oil
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tablespoon lemon juice

Salad

4 cups torn Romaine lettuce
1/4 of red onion, sliced
Half cucumber, sliced
1 tomato, diced
12 kalamata olives
4 pepperoncini peppers
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

Directions

Pour all the dressing ingredients into a large jar and shake well.
Place the jar in the refrigerator for a few hours to blend flavors.
Combine the Greek salad ingredients in a large serving bowl. Pour half of the dressing over the salad and toss. Add more dressing if desired.


Roast Lamb Chops With Potatoes and Broccoli Florets  – the Italian Way

2 servings

Ingredients

4 loin lamb chops
2 unpeeled Yukon Gold potatoes, about 12 oz total
2 large garlic cloves, sliced and divided
1 lemon zested and cut into quarters
1 cup white wine
2 chopped sprigs fresh sage leaves and 2 sprigs fresh oregano, divided
2 chopped fresh rosemary sprigs, divided
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
Coarse Sea Salt to taste
Black Pepper to taste
10 oz pkg frozen broccoli florets, defrosted

Directions

Place the lamb chops in a plastic ziplock bag, add some salt, the lemon zest, 1 sliced garlic clove, 1 sprig of rosemary, 1 sprig of sage, 1 sprig of oregano, a sprinkle of black pepper, the white wine and 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil. Marinate for about 2 hours turning them occasionally.

Cut the potatoes into long wedges and put them in a bowl or bag with cold water and let rest while the lamb marinates. (This helps remove the starch and creates a potato that does not get mushy).

Using a slotted spoon, drain the potatoes, transfer them to a roasting pan, large enough to also hold the lamb and broccoli; add salt to taste, 1 sliced garlic clove, the remaining chopped rosemary, sage, and oregano sprigs, a pinch of black pepper and 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil. Toss well and roast for 20 minutes at 400 F.

Remove the pan from the oven, tuck the chops in among the potatoes reserving the marinade, and scatter the broccoli florets around the outside of the potato/lamb mixture.

Sprinkle with the lamb marinade and roast another 15-20 minutes, depending on how you like lamb cooked. Serve with lemon wedges.


About 1.3 million Americans are of Greek descent and have the majority live in New York City, Boston, and Chicago. However, Tarpon Springs, Florida is home to the highest per capita representation of Greek Americans in the country (11%).

In 1768 about 500 Greeks from Smyrna, Crete, and Mani settled in New Smyrna Beach, Florida. The colony was unsuccessful, and the settlers moved to St. Augustine in 1776. The first significant Greek community to settle in the U.S. was in New Orleans, Louisiana during the 1850s. By 1866, the community was numerous and prosperous enough to have a Greek consulate and the first official Greek Orthodox Church in the United States. Immigration picked up again in the 1890s and early 20th century, due largely to economic opportunity in the U.S. Most of these immigrants worked in the northeastern cities in the United States; while others labored on railroad construction and in the mines of the western states. Many Greek immigrants expected to work and return to their homeland after earning capital and dowries for their families. However, due to conflicts between Greece and Turkey, Greek immigrants lost the right to return to their homeland and were made refugees. Additionally, in 1924 the first widely implemented U.S. immigration limit against non-Western European immigrants created an impetus for immigrants to apply for citizenship and permanently settle in the U.S.

Greeks began to arrive in large numbers after 1945, fleeing the economic devastation caused by World War II and the Greek Civil War. From 1946 until 1982, approximately 211,000 Greeks emigrated to the United States. In the aftermath of the recent Greek financial crisis, there has been a resurgence of Greek emigration to New York City with the majority of the immigrants settling in Astoria, Queens.

As immigrants from various Greek areas, they settled in different regions of the United States and became “Greek Americans”. Many of their traditional foods and recipes depended on the availability of those ingredients in the U.S. so these recipes often developed into new traditions. For example, Greek Salad is called Horiatiki in Greece and the salad is made with feta and cucumber, but no lettuce—only the Greek American version of the salad contains lettuce. Greek cuisine has certainly influenced American cuisine not only with the popularity of Greek salad but also with foods like gyros, souvlaki, and baklava.

Contemporary Greek cooking makes wide use of olive oil, vegetables and herbs, grains and bread, wine, fish, and meats that include lamb, poultry, rabbit and pork. Also important are olives, cheese, eggplant (aubergine), zucchini (courgette), and yogurt. Greek desserts are usually made with nuts and honey.

Below are some traditional Greek recipes for you to try.

Spanakopita (Spinach Triangles)

Ingredients

10 sheets of phyllo dough
500g spinach washed and roughly chopped (18 ounces)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 onions, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 eggs, beaten
200g feta cheese, crumbled (7 ounces)
Pinch of grated nutmeg
2 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped
Melted butter for the pastry
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Sauté the onions in the olive oil until soft and turning golden. Add the garlic and cook for a couple of minutes. Add the spinach in batches and cook until wilted. Let the mixture cool down in a colander to drain. Pour into a mixing bowl. Mix in the feta cheese, eggs, nutmeg, dill, salt, and pepper.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Spread one sheet of the phyllo dough on the kitchen counter and keep the rest covered with a cloth.
With a cooking brush drizzle some melted butter on the phyllo sheet on the counter. Spread one more sheet on top and drizzle with some more butter.

Cut the phyllo sheets in 3-4 lengthwise pieces (depending on if you like the spanakopita triangles to be small or larger). At the end of each piece add one tablespoon of the filling. Fold one corner over the filling to form a triangle and continue folding the triangle upon itself, until the entire piece of phyllo is used. Continue with the rest of the phyllo sheets and filling.

Oil the bottom of a large baking dish, place the spanakopita triangles in the dish and brush them with more melted butter. Bake in the preheated oven at 25-30 minutes, until golden and crispy. Serve with Tzatziki Sauce.

Greek Tzatziki Sauce

Ingredients

1 cup plain Greek Yogurt
2 teaspoons fresh dill chopped
1/2 cup cucumber, peeled and seeded
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cloves garlic, grated

Directions

Chop the cucumber into tiny pieces, place in a colander and sprinkle lightly with salt. Let drain for 20 minutes. Squeeze dry in a paper towel. Place in a mixing bowl and add the remaining ingredients. Cover and chill in the refrigerator for several hours.

Grilled Zucchini and Lamb Chops

Ingredients

1 large zucchini
4 loin lamb chops
Marinade
2 tablespoons lemon juice
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon dried Greek seasoning or oregano
2 garlic cloves, sliced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Directions

Cut the zucchini into quarters. Combine the marinade ingredients in a ziplock food storage bag. Give it a shake. Add the lamb and zucchini, seal the bag and marinate overnight in the refrigerator.

Preheat an outdoor or stovetop grill. Place the lamb and zucchini quarters on the grill and cook for 4-5 minutes on each side. Remove to a serving platter and let rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Greek Couscous

Ingredients

1 cup couscous
1 cup of water
1/2 cup diced roasted red peppers
1/2 cup diced sun-dried tomatoes
1/4 cup chopped kalamata olives
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 oz crumbled feta cheese
1 tablespoon toasted pine nuts
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Directions

Prepare couscous as directed on the package. (Boil the water, add couscous, stir quickly. remove from heat and let sit for 5 minutes). Do not add butter and salt.

In a large bowl, mix peppers, tomatoes, and olives together well. Add couscous and stir with a fork to fluff the couscous.
Add the oil, pine nuts, and feta and stir gently to combine. Sprinkle with parsley.


Grilled Lamb Chops

2 servings

Ingredients

4 loin lamb chops, about 1 ¼ lb total
Lemon wedges

Marinade
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 large garlic cloves, sliced
1 teaspoon Greek seasoning store-bought (or combine equal parts of coarse salt, Turkish oregano, garlic, dried lemon zest, black pepper, and marjoram and use 1 teaspoon in this recipe)

Directions

Place the lamb chops in a medium ziplock bag with the marinade ingredients. Seal the bag, shake and store the bag in the refrigerator for several hours before grilling.

To grill the lamb chops:

Preheat an outdoor or stovetop grill. Oil the grill.
Remove the chops from the marinade and grill them over medium-high heat, turning once, until medium-rare, about 3 minutes on each side.

Transfer the chops to a serving platter and let rest for 5 minutes. Serve with lemon wedges, the Greek Salad, Tzatziki, and grilled pita.

Greek Vegetable Salad

2 servings

Ingredients

1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded and cut in large dice
1 large tomato, seeded and cut in large dice
4 -5 pepperoncini, seeded and cut in large dice
1/4 of a red onion, cut in large dice
12 Greek olives
1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese

Dressing
1/3 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons wine vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried oregano or Greek seasoning
1/2 teaspoon honey

Directions

In a serving bowl, combine the cucumber, tomato, pepperoncini, onions, olives, and feta cheese. In a jar with a tight-fitting lid, combine the dressing ingredients; shake well. Drizzle over salad and toss to coat. Serve with a slotted spoon.

Tzatziki Sauce

Makes 1 cup

Ingredients

1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and grated
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
1 scallion, minced
1/2 cup plain whole milk Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 cloves garlic grated
1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
1 tablespoon fresh dill finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon za’atar or dried oregano

Directions

Place the grated cucumber in a fine-mesh sieve and sprinkle with ¼ teaspoon salt and drain for about 30 minutes.

In a mixing bowl, combine yogurt, lemon juice, garlic, black pepper, ¼ teaspoon salt, parsley, and oregano or za’atar and stir to combine.
Add the cucumber to the yogurt mixture and stir to combine.
Cover and refrigerate for about an hour before serving to allow the flavors to develop.

 

Grilled Pita Bread

A very good tasting low carb mini pita (4g net carbs) is made by Joseph’s Middle East Bakery

2 servings

Ingredients

2 small (mini) pita bread
Olive oil
Za’atar

Directions

Lightly brush both sides of each pita with olive oil. Sprinkle with a little za’atar. Place on the grill for 1 minute, turn them over and grill for 1 minute more. Serve with the Tzatziki Sauce.


Dinner For Two:

Grilled Lamb Chops And Peppers

Make the marinade early in the day.

Marinade
1 whole lemon, washed, seeded, and chopped
2 large sprig of fresh rosemary, leaves removed
3 garlic cloves, peeled
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Lamb & Peppers
4 loin lamb chops, trimmed of extra fat
1 lb mixed peppers
Salt & Pepper to taste
Extra-virgin olive oil

Directions

To make the marinade:
Place the chopped lemon, rosemary, garlic, salt, pepper, and olive oil in a food processor. A blender can also be used. If you have neither, finely chop all ingredients together.
Spread and massage the lemon paste evenly over the lamb chops. Place in a baking dish and cover, or use a large resealable plastic bag. Refrigerate for several hours before cooking.

Preheat an outdoor grill or a stovetop grill pan. Oil the grill grates.

To grill the peppers:
If using a grill pan for the lamb chops, place the peppers under a broiler and turn until charred on all sides.
Grill the peppers, turning occasionally, until charred all over, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap and let steam for 15 minutes. Peel and seed the peppers, then cut into thin strips and season with salt and pepper.

To grill the lamb chops

Remove the chops from the marinade and grill them over medium-high heat, turning once, until medium-rare, about 3 minutes on each side. Transfer the chops to one side of a serving platter and let rest for 5 minutes. Transfer the grilled peppers to the other side of the platter and drizzle with olive oil.

Old Fashioned Potato Salad

Serves 2. Double the ingredients for extra servings.

Ingredients

1 pound small Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and diced
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons mixed chopped herbs, such as dill, parsley, basil, chives and thyme
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 celery stalk, chopped
2 scallions (green onions), chopped

Directions

Put potatoes into a pot, cover with salted water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 8 to 10 minutes. Be careful not to overcook. Test for doneness by inserting a fork into a potato chunk. It should slide in easily without breaking apart the potato. Immediately drain well and let cool 10 minutes.

Gently toss potatoes with sour cream, mayonnaise, mustard, herbs, lemon juice, celery, onion, salt, and pepper. Cover and chill before serving.

Summer Fresh Tomato Salad

2-3 servings

Ingredients

½ cup diced red onion
1 1/2 pounds ripe red tomatoes, cut into wedges
Shredded fresh basil leaves
½ teaspoon salt, divided
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Directions

For the dressing, in a small bowl whisk together the mustard, vinegar, pepper, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Gradually whisk in the olive oil.

Place the onion, tomatoes and remaining ¼ teaspoon salt in a salad serving bowl. Toss with the salad dressing. Cover and chill at least 30 minutes or up to 24 hours, stirring occasionally.


The Mediterranean countries include France, Spain, Italy, Greece and Portugal along the north; Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, and Israel on the east; the African countries of Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco on the south and the Mediterranean Island Countries of Cyprus and Malta. The Mediterranean countries utilize many of the same healthy ingredients but each country has a unique way of creating recipes with those same ingredients. So far in this series, I have written about Mediterranean cuisine in general and about the cuisine in the countries of Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia.
This series continues with the country of Algeria.

Algeria is located in North Africa on the Mediterranean Sea and this fertile northern region is home to the olive and cork trees. Fig, agave, and various palm trees grow in the warmer areas. Central Algeria consists of the High Plateaus that contain salt marshes and shallow salt lakes. The land becomes more arid the farther south one travels, eventually becoming the Sahara Desert. Roughly 80 percent of the country is desert and camels are widely used for transportation. The coastal region has a typical Mediterranean climate—pleasant nearly year round, with winter temperatures rarely falling below freezing (32°F). Rainfall is also abundant along the coast. Farther inland, higher altitudes receive considerable frost and occasional snow. Little or no rainfall occurs throughout the summer months in this region. In the Sahara Desert, rainfall is unpredictable and unevenly distributed.

Algerian food is a mix of various influences, from Berber to Arabic to French to Jewish. Most cooking is centered around spicy couscous which is served with long-simmered meats and stews. Algerian meals are often finished with dates and fresh fruit. Algerian ingredients are essentially Mediterranean, including lamb, chicken, tomatoes, olives, peppers, eggplant, lentils, oranges and lemons. Spicy Algerian merguez sausage is famous around the world.

Algerian cuisine traces its roots to various countries and ancient cultures that once ruled, visited, or traded with the country. Berber tribesmen were one of the country’s earliest inhabitants. Their arrival, which extends as far back as 30,000 B.C., marked the beginning of wheat cultivation, smen (aged, cooked butter), and fruit consumption, such as dates. The introduction of semolina wheat by the Carthaginians (who occupied much of northern Africa) led the Algeria Berbers to first create couscous, Algeria’s national dish. The Romans, who eventually took over Algeria, also grew various grains. Muslim Arabs invaded Algeria in the 600s, bringing exotic spices such as saffron, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, and cinnamon from the Spice Islands of eastern Indonesia. They also introduced the Islamic religion to the Berbers. Islam continues to influence almost every aspect of an Algerian life, including the diet.

Olives (and olive oil) and fruits such as oranges, plums, and peaches were brought across the Mediterranean from Spain during an invasion in the 1500s. Sweet pastries from the Turkish Ottomans and tea from European traders also made their way into Algerian cuisine.

In the early 1800s, Algerians were forced to surrender their farmland to the French. The French introduced their diet and culture to the Algerians, including bread and sidewalk cafés. This French legacy remains evident in Algerian with the French language being the country’s second language.

Tomatoes, potatoes, zucchini, and chilies were brought over from the New World.

Sources: WHATS4EATS INTERNATIONAL RECIPES AND COOKING AROUND THE WORLD and Food in Every Country

Chakchouka is a traditional Algerian dish that’s mainly eaten for breakfast. Traditionally, the main ingredients in Chakchouka include sautéed onions, tomatoes and various spices topped with a few eggs. This meal is served with a side of bread, pita or rice.

NORTH AFRICAN EGGS POACHED IN A PEPPER RAGOUT

4 to 6 servings

INGREDIENTS

Olive oil — 3 tablespoons
Paprika — 1 to 2 tablespoons
Onion, thinly sliced — 1
Garlic, minced — 2 to 3 cloves
Tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced — 3
Green and red bell peppers, diced — 2 to 3
Water — 1 cup
Salt and pepper — to taste
Eggs (optional) — 4

METHOD
Heat the oil in a deep skillet over medium flame. Stir in the paprika and cook slightly to color the oil, about 10 to 15 seconds. Add the onions and garlic and sauté until the onions are translucent and wilted but not browned, about 5 minutes.
Add the tomatoes and cook for 3 to 4 minutes to reduce down a little bit. Add the peppers, water and salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for about 10 minutes. Add more water as needed to keep it from drying out.
Using a spoon, form four small indentations in the simmering peppers to hold the eggs. One by one, crack the eggs into a small bowl and slip each from the bowl into an indentation. Cover and simmer for another 10 minutes or so until eggs are cooked through.
Serve with crusty bread, pita or rice.

CHAKCHOUKA VARIATIONS
Add 1 teaspoon of cumin seed to the hot oil for about 15 seconds before you add the paprika. Add 2 to 3 teaspoons of ground coriander along with the onions.
For a little spice, sauté 1 tablespoon of harissa paste or a minced chile pepper with the onions.
Sometimes fresh shrimp or a spicy lamb sausage called merguez is added to the simmering peppers along with the eggs.
Add 1 small, diced eggplant along with the peppers.
Add 1 potato, cut in a small dice, along with the peppers.
Sprinkle the top of the cooked dish with chopped parsley or cilantro.
Add a few olives and capers and eliminate the eggs. Chill and serve garnished with hard-boiled eggs or tuna.

Couscous is considered the national dish of Algeria, This dish is composed of small pellets of steamed semolina pasta topped with meat, vegetables, and various spices. In Algeria, the most popular meat and vegetable accompaniments for this meal include chicken, carrots, and chickpeas. Although a rather simple dish, Couscous offers considerable freedom in its selection of ingredients.

NORTH AFRICAN STEAMED PASTA GRAINS

4 to 6 servings

INGREDIENTS

Couscous — 2 cups
Salt — 1/2 teaspoon
Boiling water or stock — 2 cups

METHOD
Mix the couscous and salt together in a large bowl. Pour the boiling water or stock over into the bowl all at once and stir in well.
Cover the bowl with a tight-fitting lid or with plastic wrap and set aside for about 10 to 15 minutes to steam.
Remove the cover and fluff the couscous with a fork. Stir in 1 tablespoon of butter or olive oil if you like.

Harira is a traditional North African soup and recipes for this dish vary from region to region but in Algeria, Harira is often composed of lamb simmered with vegetables, spices, and herbs.

NORTH AFRICAN LAMB AND CHICKPEA STEW

6 to 8 servings

INGREDIENTS

Olive oil or butter — 1/4 cup
Lamb, cubed for stews — 1 pound
Onion, chopped — 1 large
Celery, chopped — 2 stalks
Turmeric — 1 teaspoon
Cinnamon — 1 teaspoon
Ground ginger — 1/2 teaspoon
Nutmeg — 1/4 teaspoon
Saffron — big pinch
Tomatoes, chopped — 2 cups
Water or stock — 2 quarts
Chickpeas, cooked and drained — 2 cups
Lentils — 1/2 cup
Salt and pepper — to taste
Cilantro, chopped — 1/2 cup
Parsley, chopped — 1/2 cup
Lemons, cut into wedges — 2

METHOD
Heat the oil or butter in a large pot over medium-high flame. Add the lamb and brown on all sides. Remove the meat to a plate and set aside.
Reduce heat to medium and add the onions and celery. Sauté until the onions are translucent, 4-5 minutes. Add the spices and sauté for another 1-2 minutes.
Stir in the tomatoes and cook for 3-4 minutes. Pour in the stock and return the meat to the pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for about 45 minutes.
Add the chickpeas, lentils, salt, and pepper and simmer for another 20 minutes, or until the lentils cooked through and tender.
Adjust seasoning, stir in the cilantro and parsley and serve with lemon wedges for each diner to squeeze into their stew as desired.

HARIRA VARIATIONS
Meats: Substitute cubed chicken or beef for the lamb. Or eliminate the meat altogether for a vegetarian version.
Sometimes 2 or 3 beaten eggs are stirred into the stew at the end to make ribbons of egg in the broth.
Add 1 cup soup pasta toward the end. Or add 1 cup of rice along with the lentils. You may need to add a little more water.

 

Mechoui comes from an Arabic word meaning “roast on a fire,” and like its namesake, the meal is prepared in much the same way. This dish is composed of meat spiced and roasted over a fire that is usually served at large gatherings. In the Algerian variation, the meat is roasted on a spit giving the meat a crispy, grilled flavor.

NORTH AFRICAN SPIT-ROASTED LAMB

6 to 8 servings

INGREDIENTS

Leg of lamb — 1 whole
Olive oil — 1/3 cup
Garlic, minced — 8 cloves
Paprika — 2 tablespoons
Coriander — 2 tablespoons
Cumin — 1 tablespoon
Salt and pepper — to season
Unsalted butter, melted — 6 tablespoons

METHOD
Trim any excess fat from the lamb, but leave enough to protect and moisten the meat. Mix the olive oil with the garlic, cumin, turmeric, salt and pepper and rub this mixture all over the meat. Cover and refrigerate for up to 24 hours.
Set up the rotisserie (in front of the fire, not over it) and rotate the spit slowly for 4 to 5 hours, or until all the meat is cooked through, moist and tender. Salt the meat from time to time and baste it periodically with melted butter to encourage a crispy skin. Remove the spit from the fire and let the meat rest. Then use clean hands to remove the meat from the bones and onto serving platters.
Or
Preheat the oven to 300°F. Place the leg of lamb on a rack in a roasting pan big enough to fit it. Add 1/2 cup of water to the pan and cover the pan with aluminum foil. Set the pan in the oven and roast for 4 to 5 hours, or until the meat is cooked through and starting to fall off the bone.
Increase oven temperature to 450°F. Remove foil and return pan to oven. Roast for another 15 to 30 minutes, basting every 5 minutes or so with the melted butter until the surface of the lamb is browned and crisp. Remove from oven, cover loosely with foil and set aside to rest for around 30 minutes.
Remove the lamb to a serving platter. Strain any pan juices into a bowl or gravy boat and serve on the side. Serve with bread or couscous and a simple salad. Diners can help themselves to the meat by pinching off portions from the platter.

MÉCHOUI VARIATIONS
North African Spice Blend: For a more complex flavor, add a spoonful of ras el hanout spice blend to the paprika, coriander, and cumin listed above.

Makroud is a traditional Algerian dessert. This pastry is composed of a date or almond stuffing and dipped in a sugar syrup or honey. Makroud are also eaten with coffee for breakfast. They will keep for over a month stored in a well-sealed container.

ALGERIAN ALMOND COOKIES

Makes 20 to 24 cookies

INGREDIENTS

Almonds, whole, blanched — 1 1/4 pound
Sugar — 1 cup
Eggs, beaten lightly — 2
Water — 2 cups
Sugar — 1/2 cup
Orange flower water — 1 tablespoon
Powdered (confectioners) sugar — 3 cups

METHOD
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place the almonds and sugar in a food processor and process until the almonds are finely pulverized. Remove to a bowl.
Make a well in the center of the almonds and stir in the eggs with a wooden spoon until the dough starts to come together. Then knead the dough with clean hands until smooth.
Cut the dough into 4 equal portions and remove to a floured work surface. Roll one portion out into a rope about 3/4 inch in diameter. Press down with your palm to flatten the rope to about 1/2-inch thickness. Cut the rope on a diagonal into 1-inch pieces and place them on an ungreased cookie sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough.
Bake cookies for about 12 to 15 minutes, or until they are lightly browned on top. Remove to racks and cool completely.
While the cookies bake, bring the water and 1/2 cup sugar to a rapid boil in a saucepan over high heat. Stir to dissolve sugar and let boil for 10 to 15 minutes. Remove and cool to room temperature. Stir in the orange flower water.
Put powdered sugar in a large bowl. To finish, dip each cookie first in the sugar syrup to moisten. Then toss each cookie in the confectioner’s sugar to coat well. Shake off the extra sugar, place on a rack to dry and repeat with the rest of the cookies.

MAKROUD VARIATIONS
Add 1 tablespoon lemon zest to the almond dough.
If you are unable to find orange flower water to flavor the syrup, try using 1 teaspoon of lemon extract.



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